Saturday, 14 May 2011

A pathetic victory and its aftermath

AND finally, the verdict has come. Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) has won a simple majority in the most closely and fiercely fought Assembly election in Kerala’s political history by bagging 72 seats out of the total 140. The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), led by the CPI(M), is closely behind with 68 seats. With the new rulers all set to take over in a few days from now, it will be interesting to examine what the future holds for the country’s most politically sensitive state.

Given the political constitution of the UDF, which is led by the Congress, this is not definitely a comfortable, workable majority. Also, it’s not a mandate for change altogether, nor is it a verdict for the status quo. An ever-belligerent V S Achuthanandan, who led the charge for the LDF, has been able to weather and even neutralise the anti-incumbency factor to a large extent. Further, the election campaign has exposed many a chink in the armour of the Congress. There was a unique situation where both the Opposition Leader and the Pradesh Congress Committee chief are in the fray. Even the stand-in captaincy of Union Defence Minister A K Antony has failed to catapult the UDF into a comfortable tally.

Interestingly, the CPI(M) has emerged as the single largest party in the 13th Kerala Assembly, winning 45 seats while the Congress has ended up with just 38 seats. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a UDF constituent, has won 20 of the 24 seats it contested. The Kerala Congress (Mani), another UDF ally, has managed to win nine seats. The Congress has no MLAs from four districts. Also, the LDF has managed to establish a clear led in eight of the 14 districts. LDF’s clean sweep in the districts of Kollam and Alappuzha and also its domination in Pathanamthitta clearly show that the last minute manipulative shift in the equidistance policy of the NSS in favour of the UDF has had no impact on the voting pattern. But at the same time, Kottayam district has reaffirmed its well-known status as a ‘political parish’.

As every single MLA counts in the given situation, it is just a matter of time before the UDF allies come up with unreasonable demands including undue numbers of Cabinet berths, key portfolios and even deputy chief ministership. Undoubtedly, it is going to be a stormy, bumpy ride for the Congress leadership.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Oommen Chandy is not very much willing to accept the CM’s position in the current scenario. In fact, what haunts the post-Karunakaran Congress the most is the dearth of leaders with manipulative and persuasive skills that would match his. Compared to the Congress, the leadership of the IUML and KC(M) are stronger and well-knit. They are more than capable of serving as powerful pressure groups within the coalition, extracting whatever they want. Needless to say, stability of governance will be at stake big time.

K M Mani has already fired the first salvo declaring publicly that he had to pay a heavy political price to the Congress on account of his party’s merger with the faction led by P J Joseph. P C George, Mani’s own protégé, followed suit taking a dig at the ‘decrepit invalids’ (read K R Gowri and M V Raghavan) who contested and lost. Of course, all these bickerings are just the dress rehearsal for the wider farce that is soon to be played out.

At the end of the day, the UDF has ‘suffered’ a pathetic victory and the LDF has ‘won’ a gracious defeat. Though the LDF has fallen short of a simple majority by a whisker, V S Achuthanandan emerges as a grand, majestic figure, nay, a superpower, in the post-poll scenario of the state as well as in the internal politics of the CPI(M). Those who are preparing to lead the new government should remember that V S the opposition leader will be many times more powerful than V S the chief minister.

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